False accusation in family law cases
Sir - John Fitzgerald is to be complimented on highlighting the plight of those who are falsely accused of abuse (letters, 13th March 2005).
While his letter deals with those who are falsely accused of abuse in residential institutions there are many other circumstances in which people, especially men, are falsely accused.
In family law cases, false allegations of child abuse and especially domestic violence are now commonplace and are accepted by those working in this area as a legitimate tactic. In the unnecessarily adversarial family law system, the temptation to resort to such despicable tactics is increased by the knowledge that, even when the allegations are proven to be false and malicious, no penalties are imposed on the guilty parties.
If the penalties matched the crime there would be fewer false allegations. There is also the fact, as pointed out by Mr Fitzgerald, that in these cases the accused person is deemed to be guilty until proven innocent - a virtually impossible task in most cases. Those who contact Amen say that, because these accusations are dealt with under civil law, they are denied the safeguards available to those who are accused of crimes.
These allegations have a devastating effect on innocent men and their families and leave them deeply traumatised. Even if they succeed in proving their innocence, the ordeal causes long-term damage to them and, in many cases, their children.
It is time all forms of false allegations were criminalised and appropriate penalties provided for those who use these dastardly tactics, usually to achieve advantage in family disputes or simply for monetary gain.
Mary T Cleary, Amen, Navan.